Babies often respond to one’s eye contact and a new research has found that they can read what is there in the minds of their elders and react accordingly.
Though it is a known fact that the white part of our eyes sclera and its width reflects the behavioural emotions of humans such as fear, surprise and appreciation, which are comprehended immediately by the kids as early as 7 months onwards.
“Our study provides developmental evidence for the notion that humans possess specific brain processes that allow them to automatically respond to eye cues,” said Tobias Grossmann, a University of Virginia psychologist.
The study conducted by Grossman and his colleague Sarah Jessen from the Max Planck Institute used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure the brain activity of 7-month-old babies. The babies were shown images of eyes wide open, narrowed down, direct contact or averted gazes and recorded their brain activity to these visuals.
The researchers found that brain of the infant responded similarly to the expression surprisingly the time they took to react to the visuals was only 50 milliseconds. “Their brains clearly responded to social cues conveyed through the eyes, indicating that even without conscious awareness, human infants are able to detect subtle social cues,” Grossmann said.
“Like adults, infants are sensitive to eye expressions of fear and direction of focus, and that these responses operate without conscious awareness. The existence of such brain mechanisms in infants likely provides a vital foundation for the development of social interactive skills in humans,” said Grossmann.
The infants in the study wore an EEG cap that included sensors to detect brain signals. The study was published in the journal PNAS.
It may be recalled that similar study in November found measurable decreases in eye contact between 2 and 6 months of age in babies point to future autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The findings published in Nature by researchers Ami Klin and Warren Jones of Atlanta’s Marcus Autism Center and Emory University, helped develop typical eye-gaze patterns among babies month by month, to record decreases in the amount of time the babies looked at a caregiver’s eyes.
Such research findings “also suggest a new window of opportunity for effective early intervention, as eye contact is so crucial for learning and the normal development of social skills.”